FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The Patriots thrived last season when their defense was finding ways to take the ball away from opponents.
It did that against the Raiders in Sunday’s 36-20 win by forcing three turnovers, including one that was recovered in the end zone by Deatrich Wise Jr. for a touchdown. It also dominated on third down and in the red zone against a Las Vegas offense that was among the league’s most efficient in both categories.
They’re all positive signs as New England (2-1) shifts its attention to a looming road matchup with defending champion Kansas City.
“They’re a good team. A lot of people have them circled on their schedule as a big opponent from the beginning of the year,” cornerback Jonathan Jones said. “They kind of have that mentality of teams that, year after year, you know you’re going to have a tough game on your schedule.”
New England’s defense had all kinds of problems trying to contain Seattle’s Russell Wilson in Week 2’s loss and will have just as big a challenge against Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Heading into Monday night’s matchup with Baltimore the reigning Super Bowl MVP had completed 65% of his passes for 513 yards, five TDs and no interceptions in Kansas City’s first two games.
How much success the Patriots have against him will likely depend on how much pressure they are able to get on him. That will demand peak efforts from not only the defensive line but the secondary as well, safety Devin McCourty said.
"There’s no good pass rush without a good secondary,” he said. “We’ll have a huge test next week with Mahomes’ ability to buy some extra time and them having a lot of skill players who can either go deep or do a great job underneath. Guys like (Travis) Kelce and Tyreek Hill’s a guy that whether he’s going vertical or horizontal, and (Mecole) Hardman the same thing.
“So, we’ll have our hands full going into next week and we’ll have to really continue that pass rushing coverage, marrying it up.”
The Patriots had their third straight game without an offensive penalty. New England entered as the least penalized team in the NFL with just five penalties and now have just seven total on the season.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The offense struggled on third down, converting on a season-low three of 11 attempts (27%). The Patriots converted on 54.5% of their chances through their first two games, ranking third in the NFL. After Sunday’s performance, they are now 15 of 33 on the season (46%), dropping them to 11th.
Sony Michel. After rushing for just 56 yards over the first two games, Michel had 117 on nine carries Sunday. It’s a welcomed sign for him coming off offseason foot surgery.
Cam Newton. The quarterback had his worst performance of the young season. He completed a season-low 61% of his passes for 162 yards, a touchdown and interception. He also ran for a season-low 27 yards on nine carries.
The Patriots’ Oct. 11 home matchup with the Broncos has been changed from a 1 p.m. kickoff to 4:25 p.m.
The Patriots played without center David Andrews after he was placed on injured reserve Saturday with a hand injury. Joe Thuney shifted over from left guard to start in his place. Rookie Michael Onwenu started in Thuney’s normal spot and both seemed to perform well. This will likely remain the alignment while Andrews is out.
2 — With a 2-yard rush in the first quarter against the Raiders, Newton passed Randall Cunningham (4,928) for the second-most career yards rushing by a quarterback in NFL history. Newton ran for 27 on Sunday and now has 4,955 for his career. Michael Vick is first with 6,109 yards.
Mahomes picked up his first win against the Patriots last season in Foxborough, holding on for a 23-16 victory. Sunday’s matchup will be in Kansas City, where Mahomes is 0-2 against New England, including a 37-31 overtime loss in the 2018 AFC championship game.
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